It doesn’t take long before I start craving bright, East Asian flavours around Christmas time; crackling chilli mingled with lime’s fragrant acidity and the umami depth of soy. There’s only so much cheese, dried fruit and pastry a person can take and in and between it all I want my palate revived and excited.

These wings are perfect party food and the best thing is you can oven-bake them. Deep frying at home can be a hassle. It’s fine once or twice a year but there’s no getting away from the fact it makes your house reek. Instead, try sprinkling the wings with bicarbonate of soda and salt and leaving overnight in the fridge (or even a few hours) where they will dry out nicely, giving you ultra-crisp skin.

The sauce is straight-up addictive. I personally like a fair bit of acidity on my Korean wings as it balances the sweetness of the gochujang and sugar. The garnish is essential too; this is not a timid recipe. Slivers of spring onion and chilli, crunchy toasted peanuts and plenty of sesame seeds complete the dish. It’s an OTT mess, and all the better for it.

Crispy Baked Korean Chicken Wings Recipe

Makes 24 pieces

12 chicken wings, tips removed (put these in the freezer for stock!) and cut into drums and flats (jointed, basically – easy for your butcher but also easy at home with a sharp knife).
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon onion powder (not essential but fun)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (as above)
2 teaspoons sea salt

For the sauce

3 tablespoons gochujang
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
5 fat cloves smoked garlic, crushed or finely grated (obviously you could use regular, unsmoked garlic)
Juice of 2-3 limes

To garnish

Finely sliced spring onions
Finely sliced red chilli
Crushed, toasted peanuts
Black or white sesame seeds

Combine the bicarbonate of soda, salt and onion and garlic powders (if using) in a large bowl. Add the chicken wings and mix very well, to ensure all the wings are coated. Arrange the wings on a rack over a baking tray and refrigerate, uncovered, overnight (or for at least three hours). It’s fine to put the wings right next to each other but don’t stack them up or squidge them together too tightly.

When you’re ready to cook the wings, preheat the oven to 220C.

The best way to cook the wings is on a rack over a baking tray, although you may need to use two trays, so they’ve got space to crisp up nicely. If you don’t have racks, just do them on a baking tray brushed with a tiny bit of oil.

Cook the wings for 40 minutes, turning them halfway through.

To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients apart from the lime juice in a small saucepan and heat gently, stirring for a few minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce is bubbling. Turn off the heat and squeeze in the juice of 1 lime to start with, then taste and add more if necessary.

Coat the wings with as much sauce as you like and fling all those garnishes over the top. Serve with extra wedges of lime and approximately 10000 napkins.

Regular readers will know I have much love for retro and unfashionable food. I warmly recall hastily scoffed Findus Crispy Pancakes after-school, hot, greasy pasties on holidays in Cornwall and cold rice salad eaten curled up in Dad’s armchair, glued to Ready Steady Cook. These are, of course, comfort foods for me but I think they have merits in the taste department too and I often find myself defending the likes of the steak slice and cod in parsley sauce. They are basic yet satisfying dishes which seem to warm me until I glow like the Ready Brek Man. They hark back to times when my tastebuds were simpler to please and a sausage roll with a takeaway packet of ketchup followed by a snail bun from the school canteen really was the highlight of my day. Still sounds pretty rad, to be honest.

In a slightly different category of retro foods, you’ll find the vol-au-vent. These were not consumed at home but appeared at family events by which I mean weddings or funerals. Here one would encounter what I (and I think, probably, most people) call the ‘brown buffet.’ A trestle table is laid with platters of triangular sandwiches (ham, cheese, chicken, prawn mayo, tuna, that kind of thing), those tiny wrinkly sausages, tiny wrinkly sausage rolls, mini (wrinkly) quiches, pork pies etc. And so we come to vols-au-vent.

I’ve always adored vols-au-vent because what you have is pastry + creamy savoury filling which is an objectively good combination. The most common flavours were 1) creamy chicken and 2) creamy mushroom but I occasionally encountered a slightly leftfield creation involving fish or perhaps even a brown, steak-appropriate sauce. In recent years, the vol-au-vent made a comeback and I’ve had some decadent snackette versions in restaurants filled with soft, pudgy garlic snails (yes, yes and thrice yes!) or lip-coating braised oxtail.

You’re probably not too surprised to see crab filling mine (again, regulars will smile or groan) which I’ve combined with creme fraiche, lemon and curry powder, for extra throwback points. They’re so easy to make too: cut pastry, bake pastry, cut pastry again, combine filling and dollop into pastry. The perfect party snack (there’s no denying the festive bellyache season is nearly upon us) or just a way to show off at your next brown food buffet.

Curried Crab Vols-au-vent Recipe

Makes around 15

500g ready-made puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
1 dressed crab (this will give you white and brown meat)
1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche
A squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 – 1 teaspoon medium hot curry powder (these vary wildly so it’s best to add a little then taste)
1/2 teaspoon paprika

You’ll need two pastry cutters (or in my case, two glasses) which are a few cms different in size. So one cutter (glass) had an 8cm rim and the other had a 4cm rim.

Preheat the oven to 190C

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx 5mm. Cut circles using the larger cutter then, use the smaller cutter to partially cut smaller circles in the centre of each large circle – don’t cut all the way through the pastry. You can reroll the remaining pastry but it won’t rise as well so try to be economical in the way you cut the circles.

Place the circles on two large baking trays and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes, or until risen and golden. When cool enough to handle, cut the centre circle out, leaving the base intact.

Combine the crab, creme fraiche, lemon juice, curry powder and paprika. Taste and adjust the amount of lemon juice, seasoning or curry powder as necessary. Divide between the pastry cases and top with a sprinkle of the chives.